A topic that my wife and I have talked about several times a month for maybe the last year has been if communities still exist. In my own opinion, community, has taken on a different approach in the digital age. While I'm certain communities still do exist, they aren't as common as they once were.
Our own lifestyles have changed since my wife & I started our own lives, started a family, and began working. My question is if people still go over to dinner at other people's houses, have neighborhood block parties, and go on trips together. Or, are we all so “busy” and when we are together, we have our eyes stuffed on a smartphone screen checking the latest news and Facebook updates.
Books That Talk About Community
Part of this conversation has stemmed from a few books we have read recently that talk about the importance and benefits of community.
The Benedict Option
The Benedict Option has been on many reading lists in 2017 because it talks about Christian communities. Secular society and Christian denominations have undergone a lot of changes in the last few decades. In this book, Rod Dreher presents the argument that maybe the monks were onto something when they built their monasteries a few centuries ago.
The Plain Choice
I bought The Plain Choice as an anniversary gift for my wife in early July. It's a quick and engaging read at 189 pages and we finished it in three evenings. Normally we read a chapter of a book a night. It was different with this book.
The original reason I bought The Plain Choice is that a normal “English” American like you & I that has grown up with electricity and everything else joining an Amish or Mennonite community is almost unheard of.
The author, Sherry Gore, went there for the community. But, that's not all the story. This also a great book about redemption. If you want to read an aspiring autobiography from a lady who has definitely lived a wild ride, I highly recommend this book. You won't be disappointed.
Amish Values for Your Family
This is another book we like for its short stories and it shows how the Amish community helps each other out in times of need and also how they enjoy spending time as a family.
While I'm certain I have missed more than a few blogger posts about community (feel free to drop a link in the comments section), I know two have written similar posts in the past few months.
Pretend To Be Poor
Kalie gives a few helpful suggestions on how you can create your own community in Building Community Without the Commune.
Freedom is Groovy
Mrs. Groovy writes about the Unexpected Consequence of Blogging: Friends, where she lists a few of the relationships she and Mr. Groovy have made since starting Freedom is Groovy.
Why We All Seek Community
We have all heard the old expression that “Birds of a feather flock together.” You might also be familiar with “Misery loves company.” While I'm not going to say the havign friends is miserable, the recurring theme is that we all like to be with people that we can relate to.
As a personal finance blogger, I network with other bloggers. If I see somebody wearing my alma mater's school garb, I'm going to take a few seconds to say hi.
Even if we don't admit it in our “busy” lives where we are constantly driving from one practice to the next and have our noses buried in our smartphone at the dinner table, I think we all long for a sense of community.
Benefits of a Community
Communities have several benefits:
- Help from neighbors in times of need
- Hold us accountable to our goals
Since most of us don't know our next door neighbors (myself included), we probably all have a yearning for to have friendly neighbors, get married to the girl next door, and live the Andy Griffith or Leave it to Beaver lifestyles.
Andy Griffith is such a great show, it's one of the few retro tv shows that is broadcast across the country on local and national tv channels. We all long for a Barney Fife to give us a good laugh and Aunt Bee to cook us meal when we need some comfort food.
The Facebook Community
I might be dating myself a little bit, but, I joined Facebook when it was still only open to college students with a .edu email address. It was an exciting day on campus, but, my school finally joined the Facebook network in the spring of my senior year.
We spent hours making our profiles look perfect and then we started sending friend requests to our high school classmates also attending colleges (we used Myspace to connect with our non-college friends). Then, we would join groups that reflected our common interest in a cause. And, we would eagerly upload photos from our trips to share with our friends.
In short, Facebook was (and still is) a great way to stay in touch with former childhood friends and classmates that have moved across the globe. With one update, we can see who's been married and had a baby recently. It's a convenient way to stay in touch without having to catch up over dinner or at the class reunion.
Online Communities vs Personal Communities
I still think there's no substitute for a personal community. There's still something about physically being able to hang out with friends or go to somebody's house for dinner or a play date that can't be done with Skype, Facetime, or a Facebook status update.
I'm grateful for the online relationships I have formed and I think it's a great way the internet can be used for good. If it wasn't for the internet, life would be completely different. Sometimes that's good and bad the other times.
If it wasn't for the internet, it would have been harder for me to find financial advice. Visiting other finance blogs that motivates me to live a debt-free lifestyle, invest as much as possible, and also discovering frugal hacks. Much of this information was available pre-internet, you just had to look a little harder by going to the library or bookstore.
At the end of the day, online communities are best for accountability and validation, in my opinion.
Now, you do need to create online friends and online communities can be a great way to broaden your horizons beyond your normal community. For example, we live in a small town. While my wife and I enjoy small town living, it is nice to “escape” it sometimes without having to drive an hour to the big city.
Find Your Own Physical Community
My challenge to you is to find your own physical community.
Here are some places to start:
- Volunteer Organizations
- Your neighborhood
- Former Classmates
Even as our world has become completely digital and we grow in crisis mode if we can't connect to the Internet, we still enjoy human relationships.
It's why family vacation, family reunions, school reunions, block parties, and group activities are so memorable.
Your physical community can improve your outlook on life and also help you times of need, emotionally and physically, that the online community cannot.
I think physical communities still do exist, but, they are much smaller and not as active as 20 yeards. Technology has driven a wedge in addition to several other factors (e.g. safety and work lifestyles) that make it so we are almost all guilty of never saying hi to our neighbor. The person who can potentially help us the most (with reciprocal benefits).
I have two questions.
1. Do you think communities still exist?
2. If so, do you belong to one?
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.